"There are no gods here"
Why it exists, none can say, yet the Black Hallows does - and always will. It is an eldritch place shrouded by murky unknowns beyond all borders of certainty and security. Here the limits of knowledge and trust are made to face the terror and otherness of basic helplessness writ large. It is an endless place shrouded in mystery as much as filled with things the mind of man could never imagine in endless lifetimes. In the Black Hallows, impersonal forces roam the far corners of the land and make their home in the Void, a wound of non-existence found looming over a horizon too far to reach.
It's dreary sky hovers overhead with the subtle echo that this realm that lies beyond man's physical world was never meant for him. That it is the unknown man knows nothing of. And that he has no control of when he will or can know more. To enter the Black Hallows is to trek a fool's path. Still, many try, be it as a test of proving or in search of power forbidden and unknown. Yet few ever return, and those who do are forever tainted by what they see - and what sees them.
∆ Harrowed Tale - History of the Black Hallows ∆
◊◊ The Forgotten Age ◊◊
In the Black Hallows, no book holds promises of gods in passages of deliverance, for here, divinity has never been. It is the one constant in a history bent to the whims of the Void that looms as a black tear in the sky above. In times distant and forgotten, the Black Hallows teemed with cities and structures other than the eldritch metropolis of Blackpool, the unbowed walls of Sunhelm, the decrepit townships of the Grim Pasture, and the enigmatic hallways of the Dire Halls. The cities stood cold and distant from the values man has come to regard as universal, and bathed in the lurid glow of a blood-red light that once hovered where the Void now sits. A sea of cathedrals and temples once stood in worship of the Void and sorcery in the vast expanse now known as the Grim Pasture.
Yet as the Void's gaze thickened over the Black Hallows, madness seized the souls of it's people and twisted the strange forms of it's beasts. What was bizarre became hideous, nightmares were made physical, and baleful things came with a rolling mist so cold it hurt to breathe. Centuries swept by and the pale trees bled red sap, and the black seas pulled back like gums receding from teeth old and blunted. The Voidechoed a secret, and all came to dread closing their eyes to sleep - they could not shake the Void's word from their minds. In fear and in reason, they stood armed. The armies of Blackpool, Dreadville, Cindermere, Frostmire, Gloomhelm, and all others came together to wave their flaming swords and raise their wards, magic and esoteric forces for war. But war never came. And as the days raced by and the soldiers surrendered to hunger, thirst, and exhaustion, all were sent home trailed by the specter of uncertainty.
And in a month's time, something in the soldiers had changed. No longer were they plagued by worry. Instead, they were happy and wore smiles so wide it seemed to be all they could do. A person had visited them, yet none remembered their visitor's face, name and voice. Come the following day, the people of Gloomhelm, Dreadville, and Frostmire were without soldiers. They were gone. Were to? None could say, only that a stranger had visited them and twisted their uneasiness into cheer. And as a mist rolled through with the echo of voices laughing and commenting on those foolish enough to listen, the Ashen Lord of Cindermere knew that just as with Gloomhelm, Dreadville, and Frostmire, a person would come for his soldiers. So the Ashen Lord stood with his soldiers, defiant till his breath as he awaited the arrival of a nameless visitor.
From the shadows, the Ashen Lord saw hands pallid and clasped in a twitching embrace. Then a smile and face all too familiar - his brother's. Yet, it could not be, as the year before, the Ashen Lord had put his brother to death for treason. But as his soldiers surrendered to a cheerfulness that the Ashen Lord himself could neither see nor feel, a dread sat in the pit of his gut and things became clearer still. This was not his brother, nor was it even a person. But something else. A Strix, Ezra the Madweaver. Come the following day, the soldiers of Cindermere had vanished, as did their Ashen Lord. All that remained was Blackpool and cities too small to have their names remembered by history.
Maddened men, nightmare creatures, and a miasma of dread rolled by Ezra's side, and while Blackpool and it's allied cities made a valiant stand, their armies were laid to waste, and their walls and cities were overrun till only Blackpool stood above an ocean of dread and despair. Why it was spared? None can say. Only that the Last Stand ended in disaster.
◊◊ The Age of Strix ◊◊
Overlooked by the Void, the City of Blackpool survived for millennia smothered by the silence of everything that no longer was. Cities now in ruins, people now extinct, they all seemed so small before the slow march of the Void. And to the harrowed songs it echoed with a sweet wet voice, Vha'shii - the Archduke of Blackpool - answered with defiance. By the power of his blighted sorcery, Vha'shii erected a maddening maze filled with dead ends for the mind, traps for the soul, and nightmare creatures for the flesh. It would be the gates his city would pray to for protection against the advance of the Void. Yet it was no army of ghouls or allies tainted and twisted by corruption that came - it was the second Strix, Marzanna, the Deathweaver. And death crawled at her feet. In her wake, corpses burst free from the ground, and warriors and mages of legend walked free from the chains of mausoleums.
The torn lips of the dead twitched empty words, and the wet and hideous smell of rot sat thick in the air. And before the Maze of Vha'shii, Marzanna raised her hands to the Void and from it's abyssal heart, three beasts came. The first? Saamas, a dragon of black and jagged scales made from chaos. The second? Anouk, an amorphous abomination wrapped in the flesh of those long dead. And the third? Sunilda, an enormous and malformed amalgamation of corpses. The maze stood no chance, and Blackpool fell to Marzanna's bone white face. At her touch, weapons turned to dust, and Saamas roared a brutal cry as it soared overhead. Yet as Vha'shii and Marzanna met eyes, the Archduke begged mercy, yet Marzanna had none. Though as all things seemed hopeless, Vha'shii pleaded for compromise and a deal was struck. What it was, none may never know.
All that remains of Vha'shii's fate is the tome he left behind, bound in the flesh of ghouls, and the dreaded walk he made to the mists of Phantasmagoria, the third Strix if rumor is to be believed. A haunting peace lingered in the air for millennia, and legendary warriors from Blackpool sought to etch their name in glory by slaying the beasts Marzanna'd unchained from the Void. Yet none succeeded, and the most famous of all - Razahn, Paladin of Cinders - faded to mystery upon drawing his accursed blade against Saamas, for no sign of him remains but his black armor.
◊◊ The Present ◊◊
Though where warriors returned to the weeds, mages and sorcerers found prosperity. Chapels and cathedrals built in reverence for magic grew in numbers, yet the most famous of all worshiped blasphemy; anti-magic. Built by Gethwine the Matriarch, the Hollow Chapel was a place where faith was placed in the null opposite of magic. Those without a sorcerer's skill and whose faith in magic went unrewarded, found their home in the Hollow Chapel.
And it was blasphemy.
Yet Gethwine's teachings went unstopped, and the chapel grew. She forged artifacts and made relics bathed in anti-magic, and used them to ward off the fervent protests of those devout to sorcery both black and white. But as the protests escalated, and diplomacy gave way to violence, those of the Hollow Chapel were faced with the magic of war and devastation. In her desperation, Gethwine's prayers rose like a tide, and in her moment of trembling faith, Ezra came as an answer to her pleas. Mistaking him for a manifestation of anti-magic, Gethwine made her plea - that he lay waste to all temples and chapels. And so, the Mad Strix accepted, asking only that she give him her greatest relic as a show of faith. She gave him her ring, and Ezra did as he was asked, making ruins of all chapels and slaughtering all souls - beginning with Gethwine's.
And in the wake of the Mad Strix, nothing remained of the cathedrals and temples. Only a vast and accursed stretch - the Grim Pasture. All faith perished, and the sullen sky turned black. Purple lightning thundered across the cheerless skies, and a somber mist rolled through forests of black bark and ores growing as prisons for souls devoured by the Mad Strix. Burial chambers and mausoleums were built for those who had died, and as the centuries rushed by, the Grim Pasture became a mass graveyard where the lowest citizens of Blackpool were buried, and where criminals were thrown to ghouls, crones and nightmares that linger there. Man was never meant for the Black Hallows, yet in his stubbornness, man still came, collapsing the barriers between his world and the Black Hallows with blood rituals.
They had come in search of power and cosmic truths, but found non-existence and despair. No portal would open a way back to their world, and no gods would dare come save them. They were trapped yet made their resistance where the Black Hallows stretches into parts never seen. They erected their walls, built their stronghold and founded their city - Sunhelm. Yet every century, their city shrunk and their walls cracked. For this was no place for them. And in time, the Void and the Strix would come for them, and then their world.
∆ The Blighted Lands - The Realm ∆
In the Black Hallows, nothing is uniform. It's one constant is the Void, a black wound scarred into it's bleak skies. Though once home to many an eldritch city, the Black Hallows has become a wasteland of despair. Largely devoid of life as man knows it, it is a place where mages and arcane scholars go mad with hunger, horrors take forms between the dreaded valleys of comfort and security, malevolent souls wander aimlessly in search of skin to wear, and physical laws are more disturbing than natural. The mist rolls with an echo that something in the land and sky is truly wrong, and an inescapable otherness lingers wherever the lands stretch. What remains of the Black Hallows are five domains; the Grim Pasture, Blackpool, the Weeping Wastes, Phantasmagoria, Sunhelm, and the Grey Abyss.
◊◊ The Grim Pasture ◊◊
Once a vast stretch of temples and cathedrals where faith in magic shone bright, the Grim Pasture has since become an abyssal place shrouded in dark mist and flashes of purple lightning in a barren sky. Here, aged burial chambers, foul lakes, dilapidated townships, crumbling chapels and ancient mausoleums stand next to grey crags, black trees, and jagged veins of souls condemned to be made into a foul and hideous energy. And in this murky and forgotten land, a purple mist sits ever-present, feeding on the positive emotions of those so forsaken to make the Grim Pasture their home. For the Grim Pasture is the domain of twisted things. Ghouls whose gaunt skeletal forms wear the lurid glow of haunting fire, and whose want possesses them to feast on the happiness and cheerfulness of those drawn to their glow and wander too close.
Necromancers. Crones with a giant hand in place of their legs. Beastfolk, towering and horned who hunt the lone traveler who wanders too far into the black forests. Dreadmores, decrepit monstrosities of teeth, animal heads, eyes and bipedal legs. Elwynn the Barren Mother, an ancient giantess with a gaping maw where her face should be, and a skirt made of the tattered skin and bones of her children and those who venture into her dismal swamp. And all manner of twisted creatures and nightmares eager to feast on flesh as much as soul. Hope knows no home in the Grim Pasture. The air whips the flesh with brutal cold, and tears at the emotional selves of those who linger there too long. It mangles the well of emotions, and drives wanderers into despair, shredding all positive emotions from the deepest parts of their emotional being and leaving emotionally inert husks in their wake, catatonic and with little will to live.
Ghouls feast on the souls of the foolish, sucking their bodies dry and making spirit ores of brave adventurers. And those who escape the Grim Pasture with their lives are forever changed, to never again know happiness, and never again feel joy. Only emptiness and eternal dread, for the Grim Pasture is the hold of Ezra Strix.
◊◊ City of Blackpool ◊◊
Beyond it's shadowed walls, the landscape around Blackpool is a cratered mass of black rock and fissures breathing a toxic steam. Boulders and large rock float above ground as though beckoned to rise to the Void above. To enter the City of Blackpool, one must solve the Maze of Vha'shii. Built by a legendary Archduke worshiped for saving the city from Marzanna Strix, the Maze of Vha'shii is a dreaded labyrinth of trapdoors, dead ends, and horror beasts enslaved to a magic that screams at them to butcher all who seek the gates of Blackpool. And beside them roam the Afflicted, criminals cursed by the sorcery of Dirqa Elidyr - current Archduchess of Blackpool - to carry a grotesque corruption that erodes the mind and steers the body as a vehicle for death and disease.
Emaciated and sunken, their bones push out against their skin like blades from within. Their eyes are abyssal things pushed back deep into their sockets. Their flesh carries the color of ash, and their jaws and teeth carry the strength of beasts. Their brutal screams echo through the maze, and disease bleeds from their razor sharp fingernails. Theirs is a sickness that either turns or condemns. Some survive, themselves becoming Afflicted in service of Dirqa. Yet others are consumed by slow agony, their bones pushing out against their flesh till it breaks, their flesh wasting, organs turning into sacs of diseased pus, and the bones contorting and elongating till the the sickening crunch of breaking bones drowns out the screams of the dying. Past the maze and gates, Blackpool is a strange metropolis of unsettling spires and pointed buildings whose draconic shadows loom over it's people.
Above Blackpool, the Void hovers as the blood-red light of the Forgotten Age. Why? None can say, yet it's glow remains in both day and night. Blackpool culture is renown for it's art, and it's reverence for Vha'shii. In a canvas, painters capture the basic helplessness of those who venture beyond Blackpool's walls, bards sing songs that invoke the overpowering emotions of fear, greed, rage and lust, and sculptors erect towering statues of Vha'shii in honor of the city's savior. Philosophers and arcane scholars often meet in Blackpool Square to test their wit and knowledge against one another in celebrated games of wit and intellect. Necromancy and elemental magic earns greater credence in Blackpool from arcane scholar and battlemage alike. The city itself is guarded by a legion of necromancers, battlemages, powerful knights and beast-masters in control of all manner of creature, like basilisks and winged monstrosities.
And at the helm of the city stands Dirqa the Archduchess, as much a cunning monarch as she is a powerful necromancer and blood mage. In her castle, Netherhall, Dirqa sits on a jagged and gruesome throne as ruler of Blackpool and Keeper of the Book of Vha'shii. Bound in the flesh of ancient marauders who once sought to breach the city walls, the Book of Vha'shii is a legendary tome of knowledge and power. Those whop flip through it's pages are granted profound insight in both magic and reality. Arcane energies touch the minds and souls of readers, and bestow them with great powers molded to their desires. Those who value strength will gain might, and those who covert sorcery are made into mages of untamed reach. And yet, the Book of Vha'shii is dangerous. Those who read it are rewarded as much as cursed, bound forever to the City of Blackpool and forced to guard the book till their death - as Dirqa herself is fated to.
◊◊ The Weeping Wastes ◊◊
It came from nowhere, the deathly cold and cruel winds. Yet as they came, they made a frozen desert where all but one of the seas of the Black Hallows once flowed. Snowy highlands and mountains of ice stand under a sky as dark as the Void above it. In the Weeping Wastes, darkness never yields, and the cold never yields. In the Weeping Wastes, fire dies before it can ever be born, and where frozen fog and mist do not roll, icy blizzards sharp frost that tears flesh from bone. Here, the souls of those who die of disease and battle are turned to cold rock and raised as amorphous structure of grey stone and deafening agony. Through the frozen lands, an omnipresent current echoes to those who wander there the torment of the countless dead buried underneath.
It is the hold of the Deathweaver, Marzanna Strix. Those who die of old age and causes deemed natural, go to nothingness and are spared eternal imprisonment to the Deathweaver's will. Yet those who are taken by disease, by sword and so on, are hers and imprisoned in a place where nothing grows and no one lives. Only the dead lay buried under an icy wasteland, with their souls in eternal slavery to the second Strix. As are all who die in Blackpool. For while the city worships Vha'shii, he had condemned his people to save his city. So that Blackpool stand, all who die within it's walls pass on to Marzanna - to the Weeping Wastes.
It is a lonely place where the cold makes a prisoner of the soul. For none who come may ever leave.
◊◊ Phantasmagoria ◊◊
A place shrouded in unknowns, Phantasmagoria is understood by few. Said by Blackpool legend to be the third Strix, the formless one, Phantasmagoria is a maddening domain where nightmares are made physical and reality shifts again and again, each form making less sense and inspiring greater unease. It is a hazy emerald land, blanketed by a thick mist that speaks to those who go there in search of the Dire Halls. It comments on people, mocks them, laughs at them, conspires against them, threatens to take their minds, wear their skin and replace them, yet it offers aid in one moment, and cruelty in the next. Immaterial creatures and foul monsters lurk the mists of Phantasmagoria, preying on the belief and thoughts of those who wander aimlessly.
In Phantasmagoria, horrors take physical form by expression of a wanderer's thoughts. Those who dream of a departed love one will find themselves haunted by those they so long to see. Nightmares turn to reality, and an omnipresent uneasiness lingers in the air, threatening to doom the mind of the curious, act as benevolent guides to those lost, or torment travelers with a terror never meant for mortal minds. Those fortunate enough to navigate it's mists and fight through the madness thrown their way, will come upon a place sought by every mage and arcane scholar in the Black Hallows.
It is a library where the hallways stretch to infinity. Knowledge - esoteric, secret, ancient, and arcane - lies behind towering gates that part for all who find it. Yet where unknowable truths are but a search away, so too are the harrowing things that guard them. Behind the gates of Phantasmagoria, pillars of books climb into it's murky green skies as torn pages and accursed tomes of knowledge drift through the air with dust and years echoing in their wake. While the promise of power in Phantasmagoria is true, so too are the consequences for the zealous. The books, scrolls and tomes that litter it's every hall all bear a simple truth; an equal chance of leaving the reader's mind and soul in ruin, or bestowing upon them cosmic truths and great power.
So memorable is an encounter with a book of horrors that few things will ever frighten one again. Here, the bravest of souls and strongest wills are made to tremble before the whispered flip of a page. And yet, many still come in search of cosmic secrets and forbidden powers. And many - driven mad by an endless search for tomes always just a hallway away- never leave. Others however, perish. Monstrous trees with humanoid limbs and wailing faces where the leaves should be roam the hallways. Armed with scythes that wreak of powers disturbing and dark, they are Wailwoods, and they guard the Dire Hall's most precious tomes. And where Wailwoods don't walk, streams of corrosive liquids flow here and there to dissolve all who step in it. Wailwoods skin wanderers alive and hang them above the corrosive streams in sacks made of their flayed flesh.
Rumor has it that the Dire Halls was once home to the Soul Lavaliere of cosmic legend.
◊◊ Sunhelm ◊◊
First founded as a settlement and safe haven for humans who had ventured into the Black Hallows, Sunhelm has since become a walled stronghold - a city- where helpless wanderers seek solace from the ravenous horrors of the Black Hallows. Built on a towering arch on a lagoon that leads into Grey Abyss, the one remaining sea of the Black Hallows, Sunhelm once consisted of a port, though every ship that dared sail into the mists of the Grey Abyss never made their journey back. Now, it is a walled stronghold gleaming with defensive magic. Stables of bestial mounts line the lands between the old ports and the road that stretches into the city center, and Sunhelm's outer gate is fortified with the Gold Tower as it's first line of defense.
Painted white despite it's name, the Gold Tower is a watchtower where from sentinels can observe the surrounding area, and battlemages can call upon the magic of chaos to hurl bolts of lightning, storms of ice, and gouts of flame at the dangers that make their march to Sunhelm's gates. Archers armed with magic bows and enchanted arrows line Sunhelm's walls, and barricades stand ready across the adjacent road to slow the advance of invading forces. Inside Sunhelm's walls, merchants run their businesses, inns stand in wait for weary travelers and humans in search of solace, and temples and academies for sorcery, esoteric arts and military training produce healers, battlemages and soldiers. Ruled by four sorcerers - Einar the End, Willem Osmaer, Judith the Pale Mistress, and Aedwen - they are known as the Circle of Magistrates, and promote a culture where one's position in Sunhelm's social ladder begins and ends with magical ability.
Research of the arcane and esoteric is prominent in daily life, and a yearly celebration of the Burning of Torphin, a Void priest, marks one of Sunhelm's unique traditions.
◊◊ The Grey Abyss ◊◊
Legend in Blackpool echoes whispers of Phantasmagoria as the third Strix, but Sunhelm legend holds the same for the Grey Abyss. While hideous swamps and dark lakes are no strangers to the Black Hallows, the Grey Abyss is the one true sea that remains. Shrouded in eternal darkness, it is an ocean with the color of gravestones, and it's stagnant waters flow with a ravenous hunger for living things. A dark and abhorrent power lies beneath a surface eerily still, for it is the watery graveyard of the gods who once dared enter the Black Hallows. The Grey Abyss drowned them, and the twisted things beneath it's surface corrupted their divinity into something hollow and sinister.
Those foolish enough to sail the Grey Abyss find a sea desperate for the flesh of those who fall overboard, and a darkness that veils the ruined hides of dead ships. Yet here, storms do not roll, and the waters are eternally calm. What then wrecked the ships, none can say. And what lies beyond the Grey Abyss or indeed if the sea itself has an end - may never be known.
- Standard RPG rules apply e.g. no godmodding, no-selling etc.
- This is a redone version of an existing location, and it is meant to be a difficult place to locate (as it's a different realm or plane of existence and all that), and a more difficult place to leave. Anyone can show up but sell the difficulty in finding it.
- Sell the dangers and atmosphere of the Black Hallows as much as is reasonable for your character.
- Do control Dirqa the ruler of Blackpool, and Sunhelm's Circle of Magistrates.
- You're free to create sub-locations here if you want, or create your own natives from the place. Just ask me first.
- If you have any questions (or want to do something with an artifact or whatever), PM me on this account or on Grimmwald/King Leo/Thee Champion and all the other accounts if I'm on them at the time of your PM.
- Have fun, or not. That's on you, not me.